When he noticed four teenage kids from the Mission School lugging boxes out of her house, he phoned her — his neighbor just up the road — & she told him that escrow had closed a week early: she’d be gone by late afternoon. In that case, he said, he would come right over to say goodbye. But she said no, don’t. Everything was just too chaotic, too rushed. She was packing the last of her things. Well, OK, then, he’d phone her, he said, at the new place, the trailer court out in Spring Valley near the hospital she had to be close to, & he would stop by for tea once she had settled in. Oh, that would be lovely, she said, & she thanked him for everything he & his lovely wife, Mary, had done, for all of their kindness. She would miss them, she said, & she needn’t tell him how much she would miss this wonderful house up here in the backcountry hills. You can well imagine, she added quietly, how hard it is going to be when . . . & for a long moment they were both silent, the man who himself was no longer young & the elderly widow whose slender body was rapidly coming undone. The last time he’d dropped by, she’d been gathering all of her precious photos to send to her niece in Ohio. Now the man stood in his own kitchen listening to Marion’s voice on the phone & looking out at her small house on the hill two hundred yards north of his own, the house that was suddenly no longer hers. Then she thanked him again, & fumbling slightly for words they said their final goodbyes, with the awkward reticence of friends who understand they might well never see each other again.
This poem first appeared in San Diego Annual.